Guyana, republic on the northern coast of South America, largest of the three countries of the Guiana region. Guyana is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the north, Suriname on the east, Brazil on the south, and Venezuela and Brazil on the west. The capital is Georgetown. Most of the population lives along the coastal plain. The interior is hilly and heavily forested.
The main ethnic groups are East Indians (descendants of imported labor) and blacks; there are also about 40,000 Native Americans. Many of the professional classes are European or Chinese. English is the official language. The religions are Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism.
Sugarcane and rice are major crops. Important mineral reserves include bauxite (Guyana's chief export), diamonds, and gold. Hardwood is another important resource.
Guyana was colonized by the Dutch in the 1600s. Slaves were important to work sugar and tobacco plantations. The region became British in 1815 and was subsequently known as British Guiana. East Indian labor was imported in the 19th century. Guyana achieved self-rule in 1961 and full independence in 1966. The country has long-standing border disputes with Venezuela and Suriname. In 1979, over 900 members of Rev. Jim Jones's People's Temple cult committed mass suicide in the Guyana jungle. In the 1990s, ethnic tensions between the two main population groups played an important part in politics.